MANATEE -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reaffirmed Thursday its plan to dredge 37,000 cubic yards of silt and mud from Wares Creek, rather than the 200,000 county officials had envisioned.
The corps noted in an email response to the county Thursday that the long-delayed project’s parameters would be much smaller than local officials had been contemplating.
It asserted they were clearly told that at least as long ago as 2008.
The corps noted: “The existing contract requires that approximately 37,000 cubic yards of material shall be dredged from Manatee Avenue to 9th Avenue, and agrees with both the city’s and county’s understanding of the project in 2008.”
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The corps also reiterated that it will observe 25-foot setbacks from seawalls during the dredging, which could make the new channel far narrower.
The corps contended county officials, who had sent a list of questions about the project, were also aware of design documents completed in 2004 that showed the setbacks.
Because the project is federal and not local, county officials said they had just discovered some of the details of the project, which is slated to begin in August or September after years of delays.
The corps explained that City of Bradenton officials had requested 163,000 cubic yards of additional dredging that was outside the federal design, but after the city learned it would have to foot the cost, it withdrew from the project, “leaving Manatee County with a dredge project of approximately 37,000 cubic yards.”
Especially during the past year or so, there was a lack of transparency and communication about the project, acknowledged Charlie Hunsicker, county director of natural resources, when asked by the Herald if there had been regular updates.
“We asked for final plans before they were signed, but those weren’t shared with us,” he said.
The project has morphed from three phases to two, Hunsicker said. It is slated to cost $3.5 million for the dredging component, and the remaining construction will be in excess of $15 million-18 million, he added.
The project is designed to provide flood control improvements to Wares Creek and Cedar Hammock.
In response to Hunsicker’s assertion that Manatee should not be expected to correct deficiencies in the plan created by the corps’ decision to reduce its scope, the corps shot back: “The sponsor (county) has been involved and participated in all decisions in the project since its inception in 1984 ... ”
And it added: “The authorized project’s scope has never changed ... ”
Asked whether the Bradenton neighborhoods around the project should fear that the project would not be sufficient, Hunsicker replied, “The corps wouldn’t build it if it wasn’t going to do the job it’s designed to do.”
“It is a huge investment by them and by us,” he added.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.